Jürgen Klopp (Jürgen Norbert Klopp), born 16 June 1967, is a German football manager who is currently the manager of Liverpool F.C. After leaving Borussia Dortmund in the summer of 2015, Klopp signed with the Reds on 8 October 2015, following the departure of Brendan Rodgers. He took over a Liverpool team that had failed to qualify for the Champions League in the 2014-15 season and were generally considered to be performing below expectations. In his first seven months at the club, Klopp’s side produced some fabulous performances, and managed to reach both the League Cup and the Europa League finals, but unfortunately could not win either. The 2016-17 season was overall seen as a success. Although no silverware was added, Klopp’s side finished in the top four, gaining qualification for the Champions League, which was the target set at the beginning of the season.
In the little town of Glatten, nestled in the Black Forest, the locals say that the character of Jürgen Klopp, their most famous son, was shaped by his environment, although on a clear autumn day amid its quiet streets and unassuming people, it can be hard to see how that might be the case.
The Liverpool manager reaches one year in the job today and his impact on the Premier League has been significant: a demanding coach, a wisecracking post-match interviewee, a man-hugger extraordinaire and, most of all, a manager who has built a side who could challenge for the title. In Glatten, the seed was planted and the boy who would go on to win two Bundesliga titles at Borussia Dortmund, before eventually moving to Liverpool, took his first steps in the game.
For the full picture to emerge, it takes a conversation with one of his two older sisters, Isolde Reich, and her husband, Kurt, who can explain the full Klopp family story and the factors that influenced young Jürgen. The Reichs are friendly, patient people and when the photographer and I turn up at their home, which doubles as Isolde’s hair salon, she checks her schedule and asks if we would mind coming back in an hour.
An hour later, with the family photos spread out on the kitchen table, discussion turns to Jürgen’s tactile side, that tendency to gather up his players in embraces in the aftermath of victory, as he did at Stamford Bridge after the win over Chelsea last month. “Going to people and being like that – he gets that from my father,” Isolde says. “He was exactly the same.”
Norbert Klopp is the much-missed patriarch of the family who died aged 67 in 2000 after a three-year battle with cancer.
It was Norbert and his wife Elisabeth, who still lives in Glatten, who would drive Jürgen to training 20 miles away in Ergenzingen when he joined the best youth team in the area. It was Norbert who, Kurt explains, was the driving force in his son’s development as a footballer but never lived to see him become a coach in 2001 at Mainz, the club at which Jürgen spent his whole professional playing career.
“He [Norbert] was very proud of Jürgen,” Kurt says. “He would say that to other people but he wasn’t one for telling you ‘well done’ all the time.
“He focused Jürgen on the things that were not so good. He criticised him a little bit and kept his feet on the ground. We have the phrase here, ‘the hair in the soup’ – it is about the small things that are not so good.
“It was probably necessary to push him when he was younger. After that, Jürgen made it by himself. Norbert and Elisabeth spent a lot of time every day driving him to his new club, TuS Ergenzingen, and from there Jürgen’s career took off.”
The pride in Jürgen, is clear and the family were careful to select for The Daily Telegraph only the pictures they thought he would approve of. It is not hard to spot the physical similarities with his father, who worked his whole life for the local company Fischer as a rawlplug salesman, a dedicated grafter who took his loyalty to the firm’s boss, Artur Fischer, very seriously.
“He identified with the company really deeply,” Kurt says. “It was a family-owned company and he was close to Artur. It is a global player now but that was not the case back then. Norbert took four weeks’ holiday a year and the rest of the time he was working.”
The similarities with Jürgen, he says, are plain for the family to see. “He works really hard – a workaholic really. You have to be to do that kind of job well.”
Jürgen left the family home in Glatten when he finished his arbitur – the German equivalent of A-levels. At 20, he first moved to Pforzheim to play for a club there. From there, he went to a series of amateur clubs in Frankfurt while he also studied for a university degree in sports business.
He signed for Mainz in 1990, aged 23, and played there as a striker and eventually a centre-half, until he became manager 11 years later.
“He himself has said that he was not the best footballer, although he did score four in a game once,” Kurt says. “He always hoped Mainz would get promoted to the Bundesliga but it never happened until he was manager. He tells us that sometimes he is a dreamer when it comes to football. He always says that he is so happy that his hobby also happens to be his job.”
As a teenager, Jürgen would occasionally go to Stuttgart, the nearest big city to Glatten, to watch the club he supported, VfB Stuttgart, although it was playing rather than watching with which he was preoccupied. He once had a trial at VfB but was not asked back. “Those kind of setbacks built his character,” Kurt says.
Norbert was also a promising footballer, a goalkeeper who played for Kaiserslautern’s junior teams and grew up in the austerity of post-war West Germany earning money when a teenager as a feintaschner – making bags and wallets out of leather.
Elisabeth’s family were from Glatten and in the past owned the local Schwanenbräu brewery which, like many small independents in modern Germany, have been swallowed up by the major names.
Although it is a member of their family who has sprinkled the stardust on Glatten, the Reichs are notably understated and will visit Anfield for the first time this month.
Kurt works as a salesman for a packaging machine company and there is a steady stream of clients for Isolde’s hairdressers. We bid them farewell and head over to see Ulrich Rath, the first manager for whom Jürgen played.
The 75-year-old, who is honorary president of SV Glatten, is such a well-known figure in the town that when we pop into the town hall, Tore-Derek Pfeifer insists on introducing us personally to see Rath. Pfeifer is the mayor of Glatten, although the German word for it, bürgermeister, is much better.
Rath founded the junior teams of SV Glatten, the town’s club which Jürgen played for alongside his best friend, Rath’s younger son, Harti. In the pictures of that Glatten boys’ team from the mid-1970s, golden years for West German football, Klopp is immediately recognisable even without the glasses.
“Our first match, Jürgen was chasing a long ball and crashed into the goalkeeper,” Ulrich remembers. “He broke his collar bone and dislocated his shoulder but he still came to the next match. He ended up ballboy. You could see how desperate he was to be involved, to do something. He was eight years old.”
Ulrich gets emotional when he talks about Jürgen ringing him from Liverpool to speak to him on his 75th birthday in January. It was in Ulrich’s house in Glatten, with magnificent views across the valley, that he says Jürgen and Harti would have teenage parties in the basement. The boys learnt to ski together and both Jürgen and Harti went on to play for TuS Ergenzingen.
Harti is godfather to Klopp’s son Marc, 26, from his first marriage, and all the Raths are off to Liverpool next month for the first time to see a game.
“From his father, Jürgen gets his temperament and his eloquence,” Ulrich says. “And the quietness and the humility he gets from this region.” He points out the big windows of his living room. “From the Black Forest.”
Jürgen Norbert Klopp Full Biography and Profile
Witness those sprints down the touchline, cheeks puffing and fist pumping, when his team scores; the no-holds-barred frankness of his interviews; the sense of humour at press conferences. Jürgen Klopp has football running through his veins.
He took Mainz into the Bundesliga for the first time in 2004 and his Liverpool side in the English Premier League are playing some of the most exciting football in Europe at present, but there can be no doubt that it was Klopp’s spell at Borussia Dortmund between 2008 and 2015 that made him the man, the manager and the entertainer he is today.
2008/09 – Sowing the seeds
Upon arriving at Dortmund, Klopp instantly set about making the club a feared one in the Bundesliga once again. BVB would go the entire league season unbeaten at home, while arguably the greatest moment of the campaign came against Schalke, as Dortmund fought back from 3-0 down to draw 3-3.
Borussia missed out on qualifying for Europe on goal difference in the final game of the season, but a sixth-placed finish was proof that Klopp had his side headed in the right direction once again after a trouble period beforehand.
2009/10 – Back in Europe
“I just want to run out onto a European pitch on a Thursday night, instead of sitting on the couch and watching it at home,” said Klopp during the 2009/10 campaign. By season’s end, he would get his wish.
More accustomed to Klopp’s novel playing style of high pressing and rapid counter-attacking, BVB’s progression up the table continued. Mats Hummels, Sven Bender, Nuri Sahin, Neven Subotic and Kevin Großkreutz all enjoyed outstanding seasons, while Lucas Barrios led from the front by scoring 19 times to fire Borussia into Europe for the first time in seven years.
2010/11 – Champions!
The campaign started inauspiciously for Klopp’s charges as they fell to a 2-0 home defeat to Bayer Leverkusen, but the early-season cobwebs were quickly swept away with a run of six straight wins in the autumn followed by another seven shortly before the winter break.
Elimination from the cup competitions worked to their favour in the second half of the season, and with fresh blood integrated into the side in the form of Mario Götze and Robert Lewandowski, there was no stopping the Black-and-Yellows celebrating a first league title since 2002 with two matches to spare.
2011-12 – Double winners
Regardless of what else Klopp achieves in his career, there cannot be much that will eclipse 2011/12. Dortmund were beaten three times in the first six league games of the season, but they used that disappointment as a springboard to deliver what remains the greatest domestic season in their history.
BVB did not lose another game all campaign and went on to win the league by eight points ahead of Bayern, setting a Bundesliga points record and playing some of the most thrilling football German fans had ever seen. The season’s denouement could not have gone better either.
Shinji Kagawa scored seconds into the DFB Cup final against their Munich rivals and Lewandowski grabbed a hat-trick as Dortmund embarrassed the Bavarians 5-2 to win the league and cup double for the first and only time in their history. Taking stock of a remarkable season, the only negative was coming up short in Europe again, but it wouldn’t take long to remedy that…
2012-13 – Heartbreak at Wembley
Borussia had unfinished business on the continent heading into 2012/13, and from the moment they were drawn in the so-called “group of death” alongside Manchester City, Real Madrid and Ajax, something clicked in the side’s collective mindset to ensure they brought their A-game to Europe’s top table this time.
Topping their group, Dortmund then won out against Shakhtar Donetsk and Malaga in a memorable quarter-final clash. Facing Madrid again in the last four, Lewandowski made history by netting four goals in the first leg and after a gutsy second-leg display, Dortmund were in their first Champions League final since 1997.
At London’s Wembley Stadium, Germany’s two best clubs served up one of the great European Cup finals. Dortmund finished on the wrong end of an Arjen Robben goal as Bayern prevailed 2-1, but BVB were back where Klopp wanted them: among the best clubs in Europe. Moreover, Dortmund’s thrilling brand of “heavy-metal”, gegenpressing-focused football was a breath of fresh air after the years of possession-based dominance in the European game, and Klopp, as its conductor, had established himself as one of the world’s brightest tactical minds.
2013/14 – Cup disappointment
Dortmund’s standing in the world game had risen immeasurably since Klopp’s arrival, but in 2013 he was presented with a new challenge. Pep Guardiola pitched up at Bayern Munich and had Klopp’s former favourite Götze among his star-studded cast.
Borussia competed well in Europe once again and reached the last eight of the Champions League, but fell short of Guardiola’s Bayern side that won the league with a record 90 points. Klopp’s side reached another DFB Cup final but once again were out of luck against their perennial rivals from Munich, who triumphed in Berlin for the second year running.
2014/15 – The fondest of farewells
Ever one to put a brave face on things, Klopp’s capacity for optimism was severely tested in his final season with the Westphalians. Things seemed to go from bad to worse in the first half of the season as BVB suffered ten Bundesliga defeats and languished second from bottom over winter.
Spring brought a change in fortunes for Klopp, and a strong end to the campaign saw BVB finish in seventh and qualify for Europe. Indeed, in the circumstances, that Rückrunde could be seen as one of his strongest periods in charge, as Dortmund also reached the DFB Cup final for the third season running. They were, however, beaten by a Kevin De Bruyne-inspired Wolfsburg.
Having announced his decision to leave BVB in April, more disappointment at Berlin’s Olympiastadion may not have been the perfect goodbye, but those who witnessed his final home match in charge – a 3-2 win over Werder Bremen followed by a tearful farewell from Klopp to the BVB faithful – will forever hold in the highest regard one of Dortmund’s greatest representatives and a modern footballing legend.
Jürgen Norbert Klopp Quick Facts
Jurgen Klopp’s middle name is actually Norbert.
Klopp spent his entire playing career with one team. He was at German side Mainz 05 for 12 years before going on to manage the team for another seven. He is still the longest serving manager in Mainz’s history.
Klopp had a hair transplant, similar to Wayne Rooney, in 2012 and is very proud of how it turned out. Talking to journalists in an interview at the time he said: “Yes, it’s true. I underwent a hair transplant. I think the results are really cool, don’t you?”
At his old clubs Mainz and Borussia Dortmund he became famous for his passionate celebrations. Whether it’s doing a funny dance, sliding across the grass on his knees or kissing his own players Liverpool fans could have as much fun watching the dug out as the games. Klopp even tore a muscle once during one famous celebration.
Klopp loves long walks and has admitted that he often strolls home after matches to think about what he could have done better.
He is only the second German ever to manage in the Premier League. The first was Felix Magath who took charge of Fulham in 2014.
Jurgen is not just entertaining, he’s good at his job too. He took Borussia Dortmund to back to back league titles in Germany. He was also named German Football Manager of the Year in 2011 and 2012, still the only man to have won the award two years in a row.
HE LIKES DOING THINGS DIFFERENTLY
When Borussia Dortmund were preparing for their Champions League match against Arsenal in 2014, Klopp turned down the chance to train at the Emirates stadium and took his team to London’s Regent park instead.
- Jürgen Norbert Klopp Biography and Profile (BBC / Bundesliga / Telegraph)